Honors Seminars Fall 2024

open to upper-level students

HON 383: Video Game Theory and Analysis
Lauren Cook | Monday 2:05–4:45 P.M. CRN 46634

Death in games can be a marker of limitations, like as a consequence of a time limit or when it helps define the physical boundaries of the narrative world. Some games make dying impossible. Some even allow for death to be erased to create different outcomes or make dying a required element of progressing. Throughout the semester, we will examine trauma theory and death in games. We’ll explore how abstraction and different interfaces factor in to the way we experience simulation and gameplay. We will question how world events, like 9/11 and ongoing wars, have impacted games. And, we’ll think about how games can be used to both promote empire and neoliberalism, and can also be a tool to disrupt and reshape the way people think. The work for the course consists of reading responses, game play responses, midterm paper or video essay, and final project or paper. By the end of the semester, students will be able to define and clearly discuss elements of games, understand how they work, and be able to critically analyze their historical, structural, and artistic place in our culture. Students will also have a basic understanding of trauma theory as it applies to game, film, and visual media studies. Prerequisite: Students must have a 3.0 GPA to register for the class. CIN majors should contact Dr. Cook to determine how the course will apply to their major. The course will meet the Arts requirements for A&S students.

HON 385: Complexity and Chaos in the Visual Arts
Power Booth | Wednesdays 5–7:20 P.M. CRN 48438

This seminar will use the lens of Complexity Theory to explore a wide-range of visual artworks, including da Vinci, Bosch, Turner, Goya, Duchamp and Pollock. These artists will be studied because they can give us a better understanding, not only of our complex world, but also give us insights into the many ways we have danced with chaos in the past. Students will be introduced to Complexity Theory and its related concepts, including open, non-linear systems, phase transitions, feedback loops, bifurcation, evolutionary theory, turbulence, emergence, and most importantly, chaos. Students will apply their understanding of these concepts to our changing ideas of chaos as depicted in the visual arts for the past five hundred years.  

In religion, chaos was defined as the evil firmament from which a more perfect world order emerged. From this perspective, the continued existence of chaos explained the fall from grace and the constant presence of evil. Only the heavens are perfect. When chaos could not be banished by the Newtonian clockwork model, the Scientific Revolution simply dismissed chaos as evidence of a lack of knowledge. In the 19th Century, one form of chaos was the discovery of the exceptional heat energy released by fossil fuels. It was assumed that utopian progress would surely come if this chaotic energy could be controlled. By building more efficient machines, from steam engines in the 19th Century to nuclear reactors in the 20th Century, the Industrial Revolution would surely bring about endless progress. However, the 19th Century theory of thermodynamics and entropy revealed that the energy released by fossil fuels couldn’t be harnessed completely; there will be chaos always. Tragically, the energy we are releasing today will change our world in ways that cannot be reversed. Modern artists like Pollock both represent current understanding of this complex system and express existential responses to this chaotic complexity. Prerequisite: An overall GPA of 3.00 or higher. This seminar can be counted as an academic elective by HAS students and/or as an HON course by HAS students. It can be taken as an HON 300 seminar by A&S students. It also can be taken as a non-major, general education HON course by BAR (three of first nine credits), CETA (three of first six credits), ENHP, and Hartt students (three credits of fine or performing arts).

HON 389: Banned Books
Ayelet Brinn | Wednesdays 5–7:20 P.M. CRN 45852

This seminar explores the history and politics of banning, censoring, and burning books, in both the US and abroad. Reflected most recently in the rise in book banning in schools and libraries, censorship tends to focus on texts that stretch social boundaries in their depictions of race, sexuality, politics, gender, religion, and science. Students will study banned books and censored materials within their historical context, compare and contrast the treatment of different texts across time and space, and examine the relationship between power, culture, and literacy in society. Students will also engage with banned books and the history of censorship while developing strategies for critically analyzing the arguments made for and against such censoring. This course is only open to students who apply for it through the Humanities Center. This course can count as a UISS or a UISC. Contact Nicholas Ealy (, Humanities Center director, for more information. Applications are due April 1.